Project A Better Grabber

Currently laid up a bit due to some outpatient surgery yesterday.  Good news is the only physical requirement to blog is to simply be able to bang out words on a keyboard.  Fortunately, the knife didn’t impact my ability to type so I can spend my downtime being more attentive to my loyal readers!  Yesterday (also in recovery mode) I featured a new project for this year’s Haunted Trail.  Actually, this year brought a large number of new features each of which will likely make their way here in the not too distant future.  In fact, let’s go ahead a feature another new element – this time an animated decoration.

Scenes from The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Yes, folks, another ground grabber.  If you recall, last year I took my first attempt at one of these (link here).  This year I wanted to improve upon that design and deliver a better product.  I had been seeing a number of designs on the web (thank you Pinterest) and opted to work off a template from Yard Haunt (link here).  I liked the fairly basic design and really liked the effect.  Of course, I have to extend and improve upon it – it’s my nature.

I knew I needed a frame to rest the arm on.  The Haunt plan used a block and what looked like nails to contain the arm itself.  My preferred medium is PVC so clearly we needed to start there ha.  There is always a struggle trying to find flat endcaps.  Places like Lowes have gone to rounded tops which are useless when you want to fix them to a board or piece of plexiglass.  Menards tends to have the flat ones when they actually have them in stock.  Knowing how much of a pain that option was, it was time to spend some time in the PVC aisle and figure out an alternative.  The results of that noodle time …

Project Grave Grabber Halloween 2017

Hit the jump to read about how this all went together!

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Project Alford B Bach

Moving through November at a rapid pace.  The good news is the delay in posting is due to spending some serious time in the digital darkroom to work up a number of posts from this year’s Halloween projects and the culmination into the Annual Haunted Trail of Tears.  Now I just need to bang out some accompanying words and fire up the blog posting engine. I have already posted one of the new decorations for this year – the zombie silhouettes (link here).  Next up, my first tombstone.

Project Alford B Bach Tombstone Halloween 2017

I am going to admit right up front that I didn’t get to finish all the planned steps on this project before the day of the Haunted Trail.  This particular project was slotted further down the to-do list behind other haunted trail tasks that ended up taking way longer than expected.  Most of the work was done after midnight when the other to-do list items were wrapped up for the night.  Live on the edge, use power tools when you are exhausted and half awake.

As I hope you assumed, this tombstone is not actually made out of stone.  The haunting forums are full of projects leveraging the thick 4×8 sheets of insulation panels.  They are very easy to work with and best of all, weigh very little.  I picked up a 2″ thick sheet.  Two things to know about the insulation panels – well, at least the one I picked up.  First, mine had tiny scores in it I didn’t see when I was looking at them.  Guessing this allows them to cut to standard lengths easily, but for our use, results in a stress point.  The second one is they are surprisingly expensive.  The 4x8x2 one I opted for was $26.  Putting that in perspective, a 4×8 sheet of 3/4 wood treated underlayment was only $14.  Trading ease of working with for cost.

Project Alford B Bach Tombstone Halloween 2017

Hit the jump to read about all the steps in building this year’s addition to the Haunted Trail.

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Happy Halloween

The boys wanted to show off their costumes to everyone!

Happy Halloween from the boys

Although, Raven doesn’t seem to be very happy about it

Happy Halloween from Raven

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Heavy Medal

Halloween is nearly upon us!  If the day itself isn’t scary enough, the fact that it is officially the last day of the month sends shivers down my back as I have to check my quota for the month – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … whoa.  It appears I am down a post and my fears are realized.  Normally this would be more of an issue, but to be honest, I already had the topic and the related images worked up. Just needed to put some letters together and punch my ticket to the next month.

With the close of the month, thought it was fitting to feature the close of the 2017 race season.

WhiskeyDaddle Race 5K and Half Marathon Oct 7th, 2017 Peoria IL

The WhiskeyDaddle was held the weekend of October 7th in downtown Peoria, IL.  Technically this was a new race for me and the inaugural running for this event.  In actuality, this was more of a rebranding of an existing race than an entirely new one.  I had run the previous October PNC Marathon races a couple of times opting for the half distances each time.  The race coordinators (Shazam Racing) decided to transition this race to the WhiskeyDaddle to give a local flavor to the event. If you did not know, Peoria played a large part in the prohibition years in relation to the local Whiskey distillery.  The race now has a Whiskey theme to it and they changed the course up a bit.  Now you start in a different location and end on the river front instead of the civic center.  I like to think I had something to do with that having completed several surveys encouraging them to move the finish line to a new location – absolutely no reason to waste the money to end there – the seats were mainly empty and it felt like a morgue. In addition to making the slight course change, they also added a pre-race 5K similar to the Illini Marathon.  Compete in both and you get a third medal.  If you know me, you know there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to get THREE medals.

WhiskeyDaddle Race 5K and Half Marathon Oct 7th, 2017 Peoria IL

Hit the jump to learn how this race turns out.

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Different but the Same

As of last night, my busy October is now officially over.  Most of that was taken up with our own Haunted Trail efforts which consumes my mornings and nights and everything in between and a number of races to close out the official run season.  That gives way to some additional Halloween parties where we get to enjoy the Halloween labors from our friends.  Two of those closed up this weekend leaving my calendar fairly free beyond a garage full of decorations that need to put away for next year (some of them are still drying out from the multiple days of rain they had to endure before finally getting them all pulled out of the woods).  The last critical task for the month is to complete my blog quota and then we’re ready for whatever November has to offer.

Since we talked about the Yellow-Rumped Warbler in my last post figured it made sense to provide an immediate contrast with the other sub-species of this colorful bird.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler - Myrtle shot on Wisconsin trip April 2014

As mentioned previously, there are two main classifications of the Yellow-Rumped.  The one we covered in the last post was the Audubon variety as noted by their full yellow throat.  The other variety is the Myrtle which you are viewing here.  Yes, it has the yellow shoulder patches and the yellow crown in similarity with the Audubon version.  And it pretty much goes without saying that it too sports the yellow patch on the rump.  This wasn’t very easy to tell in the previous Audubon series, so let’s correct that now.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler - Myrtle shot on Wisconsin trip April 2014

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this sun painted Warbler.

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The Same but Different

Greetings to my readers!  A week ago I was standing out in my woods surrounded by a multitude of Halloween decorations.  My non-wildlife blog will get an in depth look at that event, but I mainly point this out as a comparative perspective.  See, I was standing out in my woods surrounded by creations of the dead IN MY T-SHIRT.  October 21st and it was perfect out even in the dead of night.  The week before a rainy, chilly, windy mess of a day.  Now fast forward a week to today. Once again, standing in the woods surrounded by a multitude of Halloween decorations. This time in someone else’s haunted trail and more pertinent to the lead in –  IN 2 SHIRTS, 2 COATS and GLOVES.  Talk about one hell of a temperature swing for out here in the Midwest.  Think it was even trying to flurry a bit towards the middle of the day.  Other than a training run tomorrow, think I’ll just stay in and get caught up on my blog quota for the rapidly closing end of the month.

As a lead in, let’s take a look at a very colorful bird.

OOO

That there is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.  This pretty specimen was shot while on a trip out to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado back in May 2014.  Technically it was an add on from a trip to the Denver area for the Teacup Dog Agility Nationals.  Linda bribed me with a trip through the park in order to convince me to head out there.  I’ve have now tried two times to get the White-tailed Ptarmigan up on the Tundra trail – both coming up empty.  Making the best of it, I did get some other specimens in the park, which included the one you are seeing here.  Note, I intend to continue going back there until I get that bird checked off my list!

KK

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this colorful Warbler!

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Forging the Chi Within Yourself

Master Po: Your final test, the urn of the two symbols: the dragon and the tiger. When you can walk in this corridor, the inner path to the outer world, and can push the urn aside with your forearms you will bear its markings with you for the rest of your life.
Kwai Chang Caine: Hundreds of pounds of burning coal and iron. How can I Master, having only the strength of a man and the weaknesses?
Master Po: It is because you are a man that you can do this, Grasshopper.
Kwai Chang Caine: I do not understand.
Master Po: As the softest clay, in time, becomes the hardest brick; a fragile leaf, a diamond; as a stream of fiery ore freezes into unbending iron, so too may a man ascend to himself.
Kwai Chang Caine: How?
Master Po: By slowly forging the chi within yourself, the bond between the finite and infinite, the inner essence of your spirit, and the limitless power of the universe.
Kwai Chang Caine: How can I do this?
Master Po: You will have found your strength and the source of your survival. You will be free my Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis MN in July 2017

… and the rest is legend.  Well, at least in the entertainment world.  From a birding perspective it simply represents another new bird encounter while on our Minnesota Birding Trip back in July.  As with the last post on the Marsh Wren and a few back with the Black Terns, this particular Sparrow was spotted while we were at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge outside of Minneapolis MN.  We found this refuge on a website that listed the best birding areas around Minneapolis.  Without a doubt, I can officially confirm that entry on the list.  Sherburne is a fantastic location with a range of habitats to observe – trees, prairie and marsh.  All easily accessible and viewable from the car.

Grasshopper Sparrow shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis MN in July 2017

We did get out of the RV at the first pull off to take a short trail through the prairie.  It is on that trek that I heard a very distinct noise coming from a good distance down and slightly off to the side.  Sounded like a very loud insect possibly rubbing its wings together.  Took me awhile to pinpoint the source of the noise – a bird perched on the very top of a large weed.  My Brother Ron had mentioned this particular bird on a previous outing with him allowing me to quickly guess I was witnessing a Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis MN in July 2017

Hit the jump to read and see a bit more about our featured feathered friend!

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Wren Are You Gonna Stop So I Can Take a Pic?

There are those times you realize you are behind the eight ball and trying to get caught up.  Then there are times when you feel like you’re underwater trying to get above the workload enough to just catch a breadth before going under again.  Then there’s those times when you realize that those times you thought were stressful and overwhelming were comparatively more like a slow stroll through a park.  My life has been more like the latter lately due to some imposed timelines and activities that nearly brought me to my knees.  The good news is I have finally broke through to the park walking stage and doing my best to take a breather before relighting both ends of the candle.  At least all that work filled up the coffers of blog material that will be coming at you over the next several weeks.  For now, I wanted to give some love to the Wildlife side of my blogging efforts. Cannot think of a better way to do that than introducing you to this …

Marsh Wren shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge July 2017

That cute feathered specimen was a pleasant surprise on our recent birding trip to Minnesota.  It is quickly being realized how successful that trip actually was.  If you have been keeping up with my output of words, you have probably come to this same conclusion.  Several of my posts have covered birds that made it into the tin on that trip back in July 2017 at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.  In particular, one of those posts – the Black Tern (link here) is the reason for this find.  While standing by the water’s edge trying to keep the glass on target with the hunting Terns, this specimen decided to pop out of the reeds in front of me.  Possibly to show off its; own hunting abilities.

Marsh Wren shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge July 2017

Hit the jump to read and see more about this cute little bird!

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A Rough to Get Ruffed

Hello strangers!  Been awhile since getting a wildlife post out and for that I apologize.  This has been a crazy month already and as of tomorrow I officially enter crunch time on the Haunted Trail (only have ONE more week left to prep).  I’ll post on it as soon as I can, but I did finish my final race of the season last weekend… well more like finished the last raceS of the season thanks to a two-race combo event.  I can officially say that I completed my 4 half marathons in a little more than a month and a half.  Must say, it about killed me (recall the last race recollection), but like they say, that which doesn’t kill me just makes me want to try harder hehehe.  Oh well, plenty of time to talk about running later – we have a bird to get to!

Ruffed Grouse shot on highway 61 outside of Grand Portage in Northern Minnesota in July 2017

Pretty cool eh?  I have to go it alone for this one due to my Brother Ron being uber-busy himself these days.  I usually like to confirm my bird ID’s with him just to make sure.  Bird IDing can be a bit difficult thanks to several bird species buying their coats from the same tailor.  Always good to have an extra pair of eyes to spot nuances and Ron is really good at that.  After doing some diligence on the web with some additional thumbing through my reference books I’ve decided this particular specimen is a Ruffed Grouse.  More importantly, for those of you keeping score, this (if correct) represent a new +1 for my birding list – YEAH.

Ruffed Grouse shot on highway 61 outside of Grand Portage in Northern Minnesota in July 2017

Hit the jump to read and see a bit more about this cool bird.

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Project Undead: Another Year, Another Haunt

Down to the wire now. Murphy has entered stage right and wreaking all kinds of chaos on my valiant attempts to make my blog quota for this month. Turns out my hotspot can’t even get a signal on one of the busiest highways in the Midwest. Everyone is excited about driverless vehicles and we can’t even get reliable Internet access driving on major highways. I envision some kind of Simpson’s episode where all the autonomous vehicles suddenly take a right turn off the road when then hit a dead spot. Well, no time to cry over spilt milk – I have typing to do (and hopefully upload if I ever get a signal again).

Decided the last post of month would focus on something that is taking a majority of the time left over after races and training. That’s right, I bring you the first of what is likely to be many posts on the road to Halloween. Our annual Halloween party is fast approaching which means work is picking up on the highlight of the night – the Trail of Tears our haunted trek through the woods. I say picking up, rather than start because the work on this trail is a year long event. Ask my wife who has to put up with all the decoration builds that are always cluttering up the basement. Thought I would give you glimpse at one of those new decorations

Zombie Build - Halloween 2017

Although it is tough for me to admit it around friends, I do hang out on Pinterest a lot. I get accused of being a soccer mom by Linda. Truth is, the haunters are all over that site and a great wealth of ideas. One of the links that caught my attention was a backlit witches scene someone had posted. This got me thinking that would be a good idea for the trail. Seemed simple enough, cut out some shapes, add some lights and presto – new scare. To switch it up a bit, I wanted to go with a zombie theme.  First task was to find some decent zombie shapes.  That ended up being a bit of work searching through the expanse that is the Internet.  Probably went through a couple thousand images and eventually narrowed it down to two – note, not sure the source of these images are, but all rights remain with that identity – this is a non-profit use and only documented here as a reference to the concept.  Those images were placed on a grid and printed out on a standard paper.  Using the tried and true method from my childhood, gridded up larger sheets of butcher paper and transferred images by hand.  The key was to minimize cost (a critical theme in my decoration planning).  I knew I wanted to use plywood, so that gave a 4×8 dimension to work with without having to invest in multiple sheets.  With a few tweaks and rearranging, I got it to fit.  Cut those larger versions out and laid them out on the plywood.  Note, Linda and I spent a loooong time in Menards trying to find the cheapest option.  Turns out, 3/4 sealed underlayment was the cheapest plywood choice – ~$15 a sheet.  A bit rough on one side, but nice and smooth on the top side.

Zombie Build - Halloween 2017

Hit the jump to see how these new decorations turn out!

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